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The Enabler

January 17, 2008

For a no-frills, overly bright Little Tokyo karaoke den, the Cosmos Saloon on 1st Street's Ramen Row sure has a lot of rules. They are posted (replete with frequent grammatical errors) on just about every wall and surface. "No gum chewing," "No dancing," "No jumping," "Two-drink minimum per person," "$20 credit-card minimum," "Stay out from equipments."

The "equipments" in question is a rickety old karaoke machine lorded over by a bemused Japanese Elvis-inspired bartender. This machine is regarded, with Suntory-addled reverence, as the Ark of the Covenant for Cosmos' crowd of deathly serious crooners.

Their takes on Stevie Wonder standards are delivered with committed solemnity more befitting an LSAT exam, and while the regulars are accommodating to packs of faded white people tricking each other into howling "I Want Your Sex," the point is less about the alcohol or even sociability, and more about the perfection of one's craft.

That's a big upside, because there isn't much else to Cosmos -- vaguely overpriced beer, sullen atmosphere, oppressively hovering wait staff. Think of it instead as an artisanal workshop for white-collar crooners.

As long as they don't touch anything.

333 E. 1st St., (213) 621-2227

-- theguide@latimes.com

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